This story is about a small town just outside Szczecin called Mścięcino. In the northern part of Mścięcino Forest Park there is a place with a brutal history that screams of disregard. Furthermore, the park itself may be the location of the forgotten mass graves of more than 9,000 mostly Polish prisoners of war.
The Hagerwelle Nazi work camp was created in 1943 as a sub camp of the Stutthof concentration camp. It was the seventh work camp created to provide labor at the huge synthetic fuel plant in Police (Pölitz). It was the cruelest of all seven camps, responsible for the death of 9,000 out of a total of 13,000 POW deaths at all seven camps.
In addition to prisoners directly transported from Stutthof, the camp also housed those being disciplined from the other work camps and hardened German and Polish criminals who were thrown in the mix. There were a total of thirty cement barracks near the forest, four of which housed women. They held around 2,500 men and 800 women.
Existence in Hagerwelle was a living hell. The people were beaten every morning before they marched kilometers through the town of Police to work. They often worked from dusk till dawn and were given the most grueling tasks such as unloading coal, cement and gravel, digging ditches, clearing forests, construction of factory equipment, and painting underground gasoline tanks. They did not have any protective clothing, work gloves, masks, or glasses. One of the worst jobs was handling products such as tar, glue and various chemicals. There were frequent fatal accidents, poisonings, burns, and mental disorders caused by brain damage.
After being marched back to the cement barracks the people were beaten again and often cheated out of their daily ration of a third loaf of bread and half a liter of soup-water. Once the lights went out their torture didn’t end. They were often further abused by barbaric Kapos such as Wacław Kozłowski, who was given the death sentence and executed on July 4, 1946 for war crimes.
Diseases were rampant in the camps. If someone was sick or too exhausted to work they were often executed on the spot. In these conditions people often lost all hope and threw themselves on the electric fence that surrounded them at all times.
Before Hagerwelle the Nazis would take the bodies of the dead to be cremated at the crematorium at the Central Cemetery in Szczecin. However, once the death of prisoners became more “frequent” this was no longer an adequate solution. Using history as an example, sources theorize that the victims tortured and worked to death were most likely buried in mass graves in nearby Mścięcino Forest Park. But no one has yet bothered to check.
Which brings us to today. Places like this command the respect of the people who know what happened. The area where a crime against humanity has occurred should be handled with care and reverence. I am ashamed to report that after the war, the cement barracks were converted into pig barns for the PGR (State Agricultural Farm during PRL) and after that were sold off to private owners. Today there are a variety of businesses and even homes in the place where thousands of people were tortured to death.
At the entrance of the street, called “Victims of Stutthof”, there are three memorial stones placed there by various private institutions wishing to bring attention to the site. But this is not enough. The converted, decorated barracks seem to cry out for dignity. The Nazi cement posts that imprisoned the mostly innocent people still stand like silent witnesses unable to tell their story. The forest waits patiently to unburden it’s deadly secrets.
Most of the people who died at the Hagerwelle work camp at Mścięcino were Polish citizens who were members of the Warsaw Uprising, respected doctors, lawyers and teachers of the Polish Intelligentsia, and Polish patriots of all kinds kidnapped off the street for being Polish.
The most common excuse coming from politicians, and private citizens, is that there is a lack of funds for such projects. New institutions are sprouting up in Szczecin like daisies. Everyday I hear about a new one. There is public money. What seems to be lacking is the will to come to terms with the full history of the place and give it the proper veneration it deserves.
If you would like to visit this place or the BOMBED NAZI FACTORY please contact me.
” Eternal memory to those tortured to death under slave labor in the years 1939 – 45 in Hitler’s disciplinary forced work camp in (the city of) Police. Poles, Belgians, Czechs, French, Dutch, Lithuanians, Russians, Italians and Slovaks”.
Citizens of Szczecin, 1954
This article was originally published on the soon-to-be defunct blog, sz-n.com in April of 2013.